Twins right-hander Michael Pineda has been issued an 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drug policy after he tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide, a banned diuretic. The league announced the news on Saturday afternoon:
Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the suspension was reduced from the standard 80 games for first-time offenders to 60 games after Pineda successfully argued that he was using the supplement for its intended purpose rather than to mask PED use:
Twins starter Michael Pineda has been suspended for 60 games for a drug violation, sources tell ESPN. He originally got an 80-game suspension, but it was reduced to 60 on appeal, as a compelling case was made that a banned diuretic he used was not a masking agent for PEDs.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) September 7, 2019
Pineda released this statement through the MLBPA following Saturday’s announcement:
The Major League Baseball Players Association is releasing the following statement on behalf of Michael Pineda: pic.twitter.com/OauP9G1keI— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) September 7, 2019
While it’s not as if Pineda was an AL Cy Young candidate or anything, this is still a major blow to a Twins team that has a 5.5-game lead over the Indians in the AL Central and has faded a bit (56-33 before the All-Star break, 31-21 since) after an extremely strong first half. With Kyle Gibson currently on the injured list while getting treatment for ulcerative colitis and Martín Perez, Jake Odorizzi, and José Berríos all having faded significantly in the second half, Pineda (4.01 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 26 starts and 146 innings this year, including a 3.04 ERA and 1.13 WHIP since the break) had actually been somewhat of a stabilizing force in the Twins’ rotation, and it’s not immediately clear what their plan is with his season obviously being finished. Devin Smeltzer and Kohl Stewart, both of whom have been available out of Minnesota’s bullpen since rosters expanded on September 1, have made starts with the major-league club this year, but neither has been exceptionally consistent. Top prospect Brusdar Graterol has primarily been a starter throughout his time in the minors, but he’s struggled in three appearances to start out of the bullpen to start his big-league career and the team has been cautious with him recently as he recovers from a shoulder impingement, so he may not be the answer.
As it turns out, Pineda finished his 2019 season with arguably his best start of the year on Friday night. Over six innings, Pineda allowed just one run on four hits and two walks while striking out 10 for his first double-digit strikeout game since April 10, 2017.